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The connected educator call of duty

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Tom Whitby wrote an interesting post in this space titled “The connected conundrum for education.” Instead of a conundrum, maybe the old guard can treat Connected Educator Month as a “call of duty.”

This is the first known national effort by a ministry or national department of education to highlight its endorsement of the importance of being a connected educator — connecting to peers outside their school to build a professional network from which to learn and into which they can contribute great ideas, discussions and content. I am not aware of any state, district, or even school that has made such a bold statement that it is an expectation for their staff. To this, we give virtual high-fives to the U.S. Department of Education, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Director of the Office of Educational Technology Karen Cator.

Flowing out of the Connected Educators website is a plethora of resources in addition to a list of events posted for Connected Educators Month. Over 110 organizations have joined the Connected Educators site. Many are donating time and resources for CEM events. “A tip of the hat” to these organizations. Yes, some of them are for profit companies and entrepreneurial speakers and business persons. They all add something to the symphony. They all help build a stronger base of ideas.

Perhaps equally as powerful is the Community Directory. For example, if you teach science in the elementary class, did you know the National Science Teachers Association has an online learning and sharing community that might help you be a better, even more creative teacher? It’s a place to ask questions about problem and project-based learning, inquiry strategies in the elementary, and engineering — the tie that binds math and science. So many questions; so many willing to give answers; the Connected Educators community is a place to start.

So if the choir to which Tom believes is the audience the current Connected Educator Month is mostly addressing, then the choir has to take a responsibility to involve the student body. This call of duty is referenced by Tom as a professional obligation. Connected Educators’ toolkits provide some tools for states and schools to modify and use. If a district or school was not able to rework its initial beginning-of-the-year professional development, then one might modify the contents of the District Toolkit, provided by Consortium for School Networks, to develop a month-by-month approach to increasing the number of connected educators in each building.

School and teacher leaders could take the month of activities and craft together, using the archives, some flipped professional development concepts to help move the school toward having every educator be able to share the online communities of practice they use during the year to help them become better educators and to help reach every student. Connected Educator Month is much more than simply one month of activities. It is capacity building. It has the ability to ignite a renewed spark and shine light anew on removing barriers and tearing down silos that bind teacher growth. Leaders welcome, encourage and recognize the knowledge, ideas, and conversations their connected educators bring to their districts and buildings.

The message and energy from Connected Educator Month will be celebrated this week with Leadership Week with the help of many of the large member organization partners. The last week in August will celebrate the month of activities; the new “connected educators” on the rolls; and point to a year of new learning and opportunities. If the audience is largely those already on board, as Tom believes, then reflect on the call of duty you have to introduce and coach another cohort within our realm of influence to the benefits of being a connected educator.

Gordon Dahlby (@gdahlby) is an educational technology leadership consultant and adviser focusing on policy, planning and practice. He is working with CoSN as project manger for online Communities of Practice. Dahlby recently retired from direct K-12 school work after 36 years. He is the recipient of the Making IT Happen award from ISTE and the Distinguished Service Award from the Iowa Technology in Education Connection organization. Dahlby also is a SchoolCIO blogger and adviser.